Coca-Cola's Green Bottle, One Year On

It's been over a year since Coca-Cola introduced the PlantBottle, made from a mix of petroleum-based materials and up to 30% plant-based materials. We were a bit skeptical of the bottle at first, especially since Coca-Cola piloted it with Dasani water. Was this, we wondered, just a marketing ploy? Judging from PlantBottle's massive rollout over the past year—it's now in nine major markets in a variety of Coca-Cola's drinks (including Coke itself)—the answer is no. This was a very real and somewhat green move.

"Coke not only played a role in bringing this innovation to marketplace, but we're leading in building out the supply chain," says Scott Vitters, global head of sustainable packaging for Coca-Cola. "We're purposely selecting the plants that are used, where the sugar comes from. We're making the plastic, selecting where that's coming from based on sustainability principles, and we're directly involved in working with suppliers to build out capacity to make materials." 

Currently, the only plant found in the bottle is Brazilian sugar cane—a sustainable choice, but still a crop grown on arable land that could be used for food. Coca-Cola is working on bringing cellulosic plant waste into the bottle in the next two or three years. "Local markets will dictate the right feedstock," Vitters says.

Coca-Cola's ultimate goal is a 100% plant-based plastic bottle, Vitters promises. "We've shown how to do that in a lab environment," he says. "It's technically possible, but we haven't figured out the best way to make it commercial."

If Coca-Cola succeeds, the company hopes it won't be alone in using the material. Because while it's helpful for one major company to ditch petroleum-based bottles, it doesn't mean much for the planet if its rivals lag behind.


Ariel Schwartz can be reached on Twitter or by email.

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  • Gerhojo

    The plant-based material is monoethylene glycol (MEG). The MEG content of PET resin, from which the bottles are made, is actually 28.6% by weight. The wording allows Coca Cola to put from 0% to 30% of bio-based MEG into the bottle; it does not mean that every bottle contains 30%!
    In addition, the molasses, from which the bio-ethanol is made, are shipped from Brazil to India and from these is the bio-ethanol made, then reverse converted into ethylene, then made into ethylene oxide and then MEG. The conventional process to produe MEG is from ethane gas or petroleum naphtha to ethylene to ethylene oxide andthe to MEG. That mans that the bio-process is expensive in comparison.
    The bio-ethanol from Brazil is shipped to Taiwan, where it undergoes the same process as the molasses to India. The MEG is then shipped from Tiwan and India to the two main markets of the USA and Europe, where it is converted with oter chemicals to PET resin. The caron footprint, herefore, is immense!
    This is a pure markleting ploy.

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